In October 2018 the first ever contemporary arts festival — Artsakh Fest — took place inside the Vahram Papazian Theater in Stepanakert, the capital of the internationally unrecognized territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, a contested region in what many nations still recognize as part of Azerbaijan, and known to Armenians as Artsakh. The region has been afflicted by a war over independence for decades, and as a result the theater building was abandoned for more than 40 years. In 2018, Yerevan-based curator Anna Kamay took it upon herself to transform the building by inviting international artists into the space, bringing installations, performances, and workshops to a region mostly associated with war. On the eve of the festival’s second iteration, Hyperallergic spoke to Kamay about the challenges of starting such a project and what to expect from this year’s program.
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Hyperallergic: Why did you start Artsakh Fest, and how did you go about it?
Anna Kamay: I lived in Martuni with my daughter, where I met a friend in Yerevan who’s running the Tufenkian charity organization. I told them I’m going to do something arts related, and asked if they would support me, and they said yes. In Martuni, there was this culture house building: it looked like the exact copy of the Opera House in Yerevan, and it seemed like the perfect space for an arts project. But this building was totally privatized, and except the stage and the auditorium, there is no space available to do any intervention.
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